NewsReleases | City Of Yuma, AZ

The Dennis Donnelly Memorial 16 Inch Softball Tournament celebrates its 50th anniversary in Yuma this Memorial Day weekend with an uncommon honor – induction into a softball hall of fame located in the Chicago area.

A representative from the Chicago 16 Inch Softball Hall of Fame, located in Forest Park, Ill., will announce this distinction 12:30 pm Saturday, May 28 at Sanguinetti Field, 3rd Street and 13th Avenue.

The Hall of Fame was founded in 1996 to “recognize this great sport and acknowledge its important history.” It has inducted more than 600 former and current softball players, umpires, managers, organizers and teams. An accompanying museum opened in 2014.

“Since our inception in 1996, the Hall of Fame has added a variety of people and teams in other states including Iowa and California,” said Al Maag, co-founder of the Chicago 16 Inch Softball Hall of Fame. “This award will be the first to an Arizona-based recipient. We love the fact the game is growing in other states. And Yuma is a staple of that success, attracting teams from a variety of states each year. It’s considered the place to be on Memorial Day weekend.”

Maag said the Hall of Fame’s board of directors unanimously voted to honor the City for organizing the Donnelly tournament when it hit its 50th year. “And we are proud to share a rare Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Among the oldest 16-inch softball tournaments in the West Coast region, the Dennis Donnelly tournament will host 32 teams May 28-29 at various fields across Yuma. (The Pacific Avenue Athletic Complex will hold the Women’s National Junior College Athletic Association Division I Softball Championship that same weekend.)

“We are honored to be placed into this Hall of Fame,” said Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Eric Urfer. “The level of support we have received from the 16-inch softball playing community and our local business partners is off the charts, with teams from the Midwest, California and Arizona all meeting here in Yuma. To have this recognition at the same time the national junior college women’s softball championship draws to a close here speaks well of Yuma as a softball destination.”

Though this tournament started before Donnelly’s employment with the City, it was later named for the former City of Yuma recreation superintendent who championed growing the game of softball locally.

“I remember that he always loved that it brought so many generations of softball players both from Yuma and from out of state together,” Mary Donnelly, Dennis’ wife, said about the tournament. “Dads, sons, families all made yearly plans to attend.”

The 16-inch softball is 4 inches in diameter larger than the more common softball. It’s harder for average players to hit over outfield fences, and some players do not use traditional ball gloves while fielding. Softball started in Chicago in 1887 when alumni of Yale and Harvard in the area gathered on Thanksgiving. While waiting for a ticker-tape score of their schools’ annual football game, they wrapped a boxing glove into a ball and started hitting it with a broomstick. Chicago-area teams frequently play in Yuma’s annual Memorial Day weekend tournament.

The Dennis Donnelly tournament features accompanying events such as a Friday night welcome party and a pub crawl, plus a “grand finale” pregame ceremony prior to Sunday night’s championship game.

The official award will be presented at the Hall of Fame’s awards dinner in Oakbrook, Ill., on Oct. 29

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